From time to time I like to glance at the
/var/log/system.log file on my Mac. This log file lets know you know what a Mac (or any Unix flavor) computer is doing in the background. Today I noticed something odd… There is a Facebook application running in the background! Why on earth would there be a Facebook application running on my computer. It seems as though it snuck it’s way in when I installed the Skype/Facebook video chat plug-in.
In the system.log file, this is the line that caught my attention:
Jan 12 14:58:19 jimmy com.apple.launchd.peruser.502 (com.facebook.videochat.jim.updater): Tried to setup shared memory more than once
After some googling, I found I wasn’t the only one concerned with this. What Hunter Ford found was interesting, the Facebook plug-in not only updates, as the name suggests, but it’s also harvesting data and sending it back to Facebook. What data does it collect? Running the updater in a terminal window you can see what it’s doing. It is collecting the version number of your operating system and what applications you are running. You can run the updater yourself using the command below. (You may need to adjust it according the to the version you have installed).
/usr/bin/java -cp ~/Library/Application\ Support/Facebook/video/184.108.40.20676/FacebookUpdate.jar FacebookUpdate com.facebook.peep 220.127.116.1176
View the code and you’ll see it runs the following commands:
ps -ceo comm=tasks
Gets the names of currently running processes
Gets the version of your operating system
dscl . -read $HOME HomeDirectory
Directory service command (dscl) is a very powerful tool. It can be used to find all kinds of information about your user account including username, password (shadow file) and user’s avatar. In this application is only querying what the home directory of a user is.
The true reason for having this updater maybe benevolent. It is able to self update without your knowledge. Code can be introduced to your computer that harvest more data than it already is. Maybe Facebook is a project funded by the CIA.
Hey Facebook! If I install one of your applications, ask me if I want to update it like Adobe does. Don’t do it with a background process automatically.